Elvis Coffee Table Book

At a time when other little girls my age
cradled Cabbage Patch Kids
I carried my Elvis coffee table book
wherever I went
and pressed it firmly against my flat chest.
My Mother couldn’t have pried
that book from my sore arms
even if she’d tried
with all her might
I held on so tight.
Me and Elvis. Elvis and me.
Skinny or fat, did not matter.
Loved him all the same.
Dead not quite one year.

Wherever I went
Elvis went, too:
to school (first grade)
to the grocery store and mall
every random place
for easy access
so that at any time I wanted
I could look down and steal a glance
at his handsomeness
and be comforted by how familiar he had become to me.
As young and demure as I was
in little yellow barrettes
I wasn’t immune to idolatry.
I wanted to understand his life:
the climactic timeline of it
his desires and aversions.
He was just like us in that regard
Buddha might muse:
Disquiet, rambling mind
putting his pants on
one leg at a time
as they say.

My sacred holding and fidelity
was how I memorialized
the man who bought every
police officer in my Dad’s precinct
a brand new Cadillac.
New York, New York.
While the other kids
took naps on their
carpet squares
I stayed awake

with my eyes closed

dreaming of Elvis

not knowing that one day
life would take it out of me
just as it did him.

(c) 2018

–Aunt Sally

She was supposed to give them
apple pie.

Instead, she waltzed into
the bright-eyed classroom
steeled herself with grit and righteousness
lifted her head with poise
and gave them

Once they realized they were not getting pie
(a few stanzas in)
the boys appeared crestfallen
resentful even—no sugar
to pump through their veins
only the sweet melody
of words to confound them
elevate them to lofty places.

Poetry to fritter the day away?
thought those solemn spectators
oozing with machismo
their mouths still watering.

No fair!

In their hunger and woe
they rejected what she had to give
and sat cross-armed, steaming.

But the girls—in their rich, ambient imaginations
relished every syllable
emerging from the young poet’s mouth.
Every sensuous sound
of burning castles
searching for their wonderland.
They gobbled all of it up
as if these words were the last morsels
of beauty to be had.

The boys (so focused on deprivation)
were unaffected by the jewels
she shared.
Their souls didn’t open
even an inch.

Or so it appeared.
On the outside.
On the inside they were quivering.

Instead of savoring the apple syrup
that bubbles through the crust,
they feasted surreptitiously
on the rebel act of poetry.
Who was this girl, graceful and
gutsy in her refusal to conform?
How dare she!
They loved it.

A slice of apple pie is so easily forgotten,
but this girl and these words
they would never forget.

(c) 2018

The Annoyance of Poetry

She doesn’t have access
to the stove anymore.
Been there, done that.
She doesn’t remember
what she did yesterday,
what you said five minutes ago,
or if she let the dog
in or out,
but she remembers Keats.
And Shelley.
And Wordsworth.
And cummings.
Poets you used to love
before six months
of ringing repetitiously through the night.
You want to like it,
this constant recitation–
she gets so much joy from it.
If not joy, at least respite.
A pocket of memory
that has not faded
one bit.

What region of the brain
which cluster of cells
harbors poetry
while the tissue surrounding it
falls limp and desiccates?

You never thought poetry
could be annoying.
She may think it’s a gift
she’s giving you.
By now, however,
it is a madness shared.
Ode on a Grecian Urn
while dressing her.
Every. Single. Morning.
Tintern Abbey while driving
the same scenic route
just to get out of the house.
These well-crafted poems
used to be your favorites.
You relied on them to
elevate your mind and senses.
She wooed you with them
four decades ago:
Her full, beautiful lips
speaking delectable truths.
Your memory of yesterday and today
is intact.

So don’t forget the poets
from the turn of our
last century:
Maya Angelou.
And Ondaatje.
And Boland.
And Oliver.
Once a longed-for harmony,
now the wordplay
of these gallant poets gets in the way.
It compromises your ability
to concentrate.
And when you are thinking
and doing for two,
concentration is everything.

Your wife.
Your dear, dear wife.
How many in her
lexicon of poesy?
An impressive number.
You used to be in awe.
20, 30, 50 poems memorized?
Must be.
Seems like the stream
goes on forever
until she begins again
with a dignified gusto
and thunderous breath:

A thing of beauty
Is a joy forever.
Its loveliness increases
It will never pass into nothingness…


(c) 2018


Walking into a room
the air billows
in a silent wake rippling
like doves’ wings
or wind on a pond

We are constantly
creating effect
never truly still
From our first suckle
and cry
we shift energy
simply by the
of our lungs
For better or worse
we are connected
by the strand of God

We hope for our actions
to be loving
at least innocuous
and for the results
to be fruitful
But somewhere
down the line
someone is hurt
sometimes even when
our offering is
an aching smile
or olive branch

To always be generating
along our timid sojourn
is a painful inheritance
a tiresome endeavor

It doesn’t mean
we are bad people
It just is humanity
The Second Noble Truth
contends our attachments
cause this wake
from the get-go
Extinguishing conditions
may take lifetimes
Yet it is possible
to be free

Fold the poems, honey
Slip them in an envelope
Mail them to the universe
and trust

(c) 2018


           You cause light to bend simply

by rising from a chair.

It follows you in

waves, encircles you.

A halo of changed

light, charged light.

It shines on me day and night

warming my chilled Northwest bones.

(c) 2018

Differences in Air

i. Pacific Northwest Air

musk and pine
organic mulch from
old growth forest stands
moistened bark
there’s no inhaling this air
this air you have to swallow

life living and dying
death creating life
all this wild abundance
a green menagerie
made possible
by the shade of only
152 days of sun per year

ii. Sonoran Desert Air

clear and dry
vapor made spare
and dilute by
325 days of sun per year
no humus additives
resting on my tongue
no thick bogginess
for my lungs
to laboriously inhale
no briny water stuck
in the ridges of my throat

Just air
simple, unadorned
easy in easy out
pellucid with a tinge of
hidden nectar
air so weightless
it doesn’t feel like breathing at all

(c) 2018

Morning Hours

My mind drifts
in the morning
for the muse
to anchor me.

(c) 2018


Sometimes hope is
a wild Chihuahua
hiding in a cave
hunkered down all
cozy-like out of
sight yet ready to
bark its little head
off to protect you.

(c) 2018

Favorite Memory
–Pam Miller

In Colorado
dusk lasts forever-
apricot clementine fire
luscious grape divine
distinct outlines muted
drenched in warmth
and light.


For hours after supper
we’d twirl cartwheels
on Pam’s lawn until
we could no longer see
only feel
our movements.

Then inevitably
my Mom would yell:
“Marie, Marie! Time to come home!“
And I’d think:
But I am home, Mom.
Beneath the sky, tippy toes on the Earth.
Here, I am.

There I was.
My lithe body tricking gravity
being free.

I did know then
what I know now:
those times
were the kernel of life.

(c) 2018

Poem For Anyone Who Has Ever Struggled to Like Themselves

Out of 12 chromatic notes
infinite variations of
rhythm and resonance.
Songs that sing
homemade lullabies
to the needy spirit.

Out of seven billion people
you have emerged.
One unique and
beautiful you!
A song that sings
color and light
to the aching world.

You are an unfinished symphony.
The only person in the world
who can be you.

So be yourself—
and be a good one.

(c) 2018